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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE, FL, July 21, 2022 — At once, it was an interesting and strange day of racing in the mountains and by the sea. In deference to their age, the old Spa is up first.

There is no telling how good Nest is and will continue to be. Is there even more developing to be done?

Todd Pletcher promised that Saturday’s Coaching Club American Oaks heroine came out of the Belmont Stakes better than when she went in and she proved with a 12-1/4 length tour de force.

Assuming the lead when no one else did, the result to a stumbling start for two of her rivals, including anticipated pace setter Society who rushed up to take the lead.

Nest, who prefers a target, eventually was nursed into the lead by Irad Ortiz Jr. until Saratoga’s leading rider asked for a response when her Kentucky Oaks rival made a serious bid.

That challenge was extremely short lived..

Nest exploded to command soon after entering the straight and was a margin winner, crossing the line and drawing out with energy in reserve. For her main rival, it was quite the opposite.

Luis Saez asked Secret Oath for her best at headstretch but she was empty at the point after making a wide turn move. Approaching midstretch, there was some question as to whether she would save the place. She did by a comfortable margin was drifting, never extending herself late

Said Saez post race: “The winner just kept going and [Secret Oath] got pretty tired. She came to the top of the stretch and she was a little empty and getting out, too.”

Wayne Lukas thought his filly might have been a little short over Saratoga’s demanding nine furlongs and given her first race in two months may run her back in the Alabama.

After her CCAO effort, and given an ambitious and productive spring-summer race schedule, and the fact Nest will appreciate the added furlong, that move in our view would be ill advised.


There are two stakes races Saturday, one in Saratoga and one at Monmouth Park, that have attracted small fields for a reason.

Old school horseman always advised younger colleagues, “you never duck one horse.”

But you are advised to avoid two: In Saratoga’s G1 Coaching Club American Oaks, it will be the Secret Oath vs. Nest show, the one-two finishers in the Kentucky Oaks. They likely will need to run down the main speed, undefeated Society.

At the Shore, Monmouth Park’s signature event, the Grade 1 TVG Haskell, it will be undefeated Jack Christopher vs. formerly undefeated speed sensation Taiba, returning after being crushed in a suicidal Kentucky Derby pace and will be trying to give Bob Baffert his 10th Haskell victory.

HRI has not drilled down on these races yet but will return with firm commitments subsequently.

Whether you bet your money or not, these races are appointment TV for true fans but for now a handicapping sketch of Friday’s Grade 3 for three-year-old fillies going a mile on the inner turf.


The Skinny: This two turner attracted nine, very talented sophomore fillies who love the lawn and is far from a two-filly race as handicappers can get.

Chad Brown, to no one’s surprise, has owned this event in recent years and will saddle the first and second favorites, Dolce Zel (5-2), a Grade 3 winner dropping out of two Grade 2s, and Eminent Victor (3-1) who won her recent three-year-old debut in a listed event downstate.

We’re taking whatever value should be offered on Koala Princess (9-2), making her first start off a 256-day break. The immediate attract is that she’s run performance figures the equal or better than the Brown fillies and any maturity gained over the winter and spring should enable a forward move.

After winning her first two starts, she was a tepid favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She finished seventh of 12 after breaking from an outer slip, which is a tough go on Del Mar’s tight turf turns. Her trip? Wide, wider and widest but still finished with courage, beaten a mere 2-1/4 lengths.


EARLY LINE VALUE: Koala Princess

STRAIGHT WAGER AND EXOTICA: Koala Princess to win at 7-2 or greater. Exacta Box 4-5-6. Trifecta Key: Koala Princess first and second with the Chad fillies, and adding Mott-trained Al Qahira (12-1) and Shug-trained Skims (9-2) second and third.



The Skinny: A two-horse race on paper with five entered–unless you believe Society (8-1) is going to get good and loose and going easily. At even weights, that will be a tall order bit it is horse racing, after all.

Both Todd Pletcher’s Nest (1-1) and Wayne Lukas’ Secret Oath (6-5) want to come off the pace and Nest is the more tactical of the two. She likely will get the jump on her main rival but if Society does not relent on the lead, that would set the table for Secret Oath.

Another thing: Nest has won going nine furlongs, but would prefer the 10 furlongs of the storied Alabama. Today’s trip is more Secret Oath’s game. She’s fresh, training well, although not as well as Nest, on our view. Looking at the form with tomorrow in mind, the CCAO may just be “Wayne’s Alabama.”



STRAIGHT WAGER AND EXOTICA: Secret Oath to win at early line odds or greater. Trifecta Wheel: 2-5 // 2-3-5 // 2-3-5. Cold Trifecta: 5-3-2


The Skinny: Parimutuelly speaking, a much more interesting betting race. Caravel (5-2) won this race last year and is rounding into top form for Brad Cox, whose runners have been live. Bout Time (3-1) exits a fast listed stakes at Monmouth Park, earning an excellent figure for Cherie DeVaux, a former Chad Brown assistant who’s having a career year.

There’s no shortage of early speed in the 5-1/2 furlong turf sprint, and the dynamics dictate that the race shape would favor a tactical mid-pack position type. Tobys Heart (9-2) fits that bill.

Eliminated by a slow in the longer Intercontinental, the moderate pace did not help a filly who was forced to come from last after her career-best prior. That G3, won by Caravel, went in 1:07 3/5.

Today’s splits figures to be hotter, the filly’s drawn mid-gate, switches to Ricardo Santana, and the Spa winner’s next defeat at the trip will be her first after five career starts.


EARLY LINE VALUE: Miss J McKay (6-1)

STRAIGHT WAGER AND EXOTICA: Tobys Heart to win at 4-1 or greater. Exacta Box: 1-4-5. Trifecta Wheel 1-4-5 // 1-2-3-4-5 // 1-2-3-4-5



The Skinny: A prestigious and always entertaining 11-furlong turf marathon. This renewal includes last year’s winner who prepped in Belmont G1 Manhattan.

And Chad Brown is taking the same tack with Tribhuvan (5-2), only this year he comes in off a winning effort. Will he get loose again, his best game? Our guess is that he will have some pressure today.

Chad won’t mind, however, because he enters a live, uncoupled mate, Adhamo (3-1), who got caught up in Manhattan traffic, before sprinting home with plenty of energy for place. He’s set to make amends.

Gufo (3-1) will run his race, per usual, and Team Clement/Rosario leaves the Adirondacks in favor of the Shore here. We’re going for some gusto with course loving Mohs (20-1), who finished strongly too late in his prep for this, now goes LAY-3 for local trainer Pat McBurney who drilled his four-year-old briskly.



STRAIGHT WAGERS AND EXOTICA: Adhamo to win at 3-1 or greater. Value Saver Wager: Mohs to win at 15-1 or greater. Exacta Box: 1-4-6. Exacta Box: 1-6-10. Trifecta Wheel: 1 // 6 // 3-4-7-8-10. Trifecta Wheel 1 // 3-4-7-8-10 // 6. Superfecta Wheel: 1 // 3-4-7-8-10 // 3-4-7-8-10 // 6


The Skinny: Frankly, we don’t know what to do with early line favorite Taiba (7-5). His Derby is a throw-out, as he was thrashed in a suicidal pace. He came into the race off two impressive wins, including the G1 Santa Anita Derby at today’s trip.

But his prior was a winning sprint debut, and the SA Derby form has not held well. He’s working bullets for this because, after all, Bob is ba-a-a-ck in search of Haskell victory #10. We’re not taking a short price on a come situation.

Then there’s undefeated Jack Christopher (3-2) who likely will go favored ante-post. He has never been around two turns but has enough bottom-side pedigree to carry him this far. He’s classy and fast, very fast. If a stupid pace develops, both White Abarrio (5-1) and Cyberknife (6-1) have excellent chances to upset.


WIN-VALUE PLAYS: White Abarrio or Cyberknife at early line odds or greater.

EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 1-6-7. Exacta Key 7 // 1-6. Trifecta Wheel: 7 // 1-6 // 1-2-6.

When more than one horse is listed in a category, preferences are listed in order. Exotic wagering level suggested are at minimums available; straight wagers at $2 units.

this is a live column that will be updated through the weekend

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22 Responses

  1. Just a few words about Saratoga – still the best U.S. thoroughbred meet of them all. We were there for the first three days of the 40 day 2022 stand. The place is simply fabulous. Bring in your lawn chairs and cooler and sit out in the backyard. We stay near the Racing Secretary’s Office. You’ll see many racing luminaries mixing freely with the crowd, jockeys signing autographs and many smiling faces everywhere. Of course, you need winners here and we had a few – like City Man ($26.60 on FR) and In Italian ($18.60 on SA – following your wise advice, JP) – to keep the smiles coming. We’ve made the trip at least one time every season since about 1985 – except for the 2020 pandemic season when fans could not enter the track. On the downside, it’s expensive !!! Bring lots of money. Food, beverages and souvenirs are all 2-3 times the reasonable price level. Back again – hopefully – in 2 weeks for the Whitney.

    1. Kudos to Timeform’s astute handicapper, David Aragona, for pointing me towards City Man on Friday. David’s top 3 selections appeared in the NYRA track program. Wishing everyone at HRI a most successful Saratoga meet !!!

    2. As you say, bring money, but there’s nothing like it. God willing, see you at the Whitney…

      1. Hoping to bump into you at the Whitney, John, or maybe the day before when it’s not nearly as crowded at the track. Safe passage to you and Toni – provided, of course, that you’re able to make this fabulous trip. FYI, while I have never ventured to Del Mar or Keeneland, I just can’t imagine that either of these two are finer than The Old Spa or the City of Saratoga Springs, NY.

        1. Agree with you on Saratoga, and the Race Course, but Keeneland is special but I must admit, embarrassingly, I’ve never gone racing at Del Mar. Some day I hope we can get there. Was in San Diego thrice but not during the season…

  2. After 6 racing days – Favorites are winning at 19 for 61 (31%)

    SAR 2022: 7 for 18, minus $112, minus 31% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 22JUL2022 (Day 7)

    Race 1 – $20 to SHOW on WICO
    Race 5 – $20 to WIN on CHESS’S DREAM / VOLIERO
    Race 8 – $20 to SHOW on SASSY MELISSA

    1. Hang in Dan… as I said earlier this week, Saratoga’s a marathon, not a sprint…

      1. A marathon – and I have stepped in multiple potholes in the first 10K.

        SAR 2022: 8 for 21, minus $142, minus 34% ROI

        Wagers for SAR 23JUL2022 (Day 8)

        Race 3 – $20 to WIN on JANE GREY
        Race 4 – $20 to SHOW on VERONICA GREENE
        Race 10 – $20 to SHOW on MISS J MCKAY

  3. Monmouth Park
    July 23, 2022

    12 th race-The HASKELL
    Let’s get rid of the horses that have no shot, One time Willard, King of Hollywood and Benevengo.
    #8-White Abarrio-0/4 with Rosario, 4/4 at Gulfstream and 0/3 everywhere else, has been racing since February without a break, lasix off, has improved a lot since his two year old form. Not for me.
    #4-Howling Time- A tad too slow but if any entrant is going to move forward, it’s him. 200,000 yearling’s last was best yet and he seem’s to be coming up to this race off a 5F work of 59.3(B). Absolutely can get a piece.
    #7-Jack Christopher-Never bet a horse to win as a favorite when asked to do something he’s never done before. I think at post he may be the favorite.His dad was a stone cold sprinter, He’s never been 2 turns and he’ll have some company up front. BUT, his last race!!!!! He’s 3 and ran a hole in the wind. He can backup 5 length’s and still win unless the stress get’s to him. At 3/2 no thanks at a win for me.
    #2-Taiba-Bob’s back, looking for his 10th Haskell win. He’s fast, distance is no problem and is most likely the one to beat. A major player with some concerns. he’s 7/5 and that’s a concern for me. He missed a week of training in his work tab from June 25th to July 7th(12 days) in preparation for this and Smith has a tendency to go wide with his horses. Still he’s live.
    #1-Cyberknife-His last was sneaky good as he was very wide on both turns. If you draw a line through his derby, he is still developing. 3 races at 2 and 5 this year gives him bottom. He’s won 3 of his last 4, is regally bred and gets Cox/Geroux. Oh and he’s 6-1. Great key.
    Let’s go get the bad guys and have everyone make it home safe,

    Vin O

  4. Pick 5- 6 gimmicks are as unexpected as the lotto numbers(bytheway Mega ball will reach $ 800,000,000 Tuesday).On Friday the two ML favs resulted in a $ 148 prize which required an investment of $ 64. Worthwhile ? Doubt it.Today,Saturday the pot was over a Million plus and even if everyone s pick won the last race at odds on it still paid off in Hundreds of Thousand$ . Any lessons,excuses drawn from these two very different results on the same track ? How does one deduce the choice of using longshots,and when just sticking to the two or three main picks in each race ? Dunno, I’m just a piano player ! Two successive track records broken at Monmouth.Taiba,again,was involved going in the hard way.One day it Has to be a smooth ride for this horse ! Chad Brown: Can a legit horse trainer have so many entries and winners ? Better than his teacher ,Frankel ? Hmm,Arsenio Hall would have said..Richie Migliore,we know that your son is behind Dylan Davis, so could you slow down on how good he is when he wins a race ? This probably is the best jockey colony in many yrs and most of the winners are riding at the Saratoga track for that same reason. Even cheerleading has its limitations. We all liked the Davis clan starting with pop Robbie.Enough said. It ain’t fun where you are losing four or more races in a row and then hit a puny exacta. That reminds me of harness racing of days gone by. Congrats to who picked the Cyber horse . Del Mar and Monmouth,fresh and near the oceans ,. with lots of betting pool$ ,…

    1. Oh,yeah,almost forgot that Matthews picked that $ 44 horse on top in the 10 the race which was part of his $ 160 plus late double. Catch those Marbles !

  5. Vin O, Thanks for your handicapping on Cyberknife. I was going to mix up a few runners in the TRI & SF, but after reading your comments, I ended up wagering a straight $5 to win on Cyberknife. Thanks for the free shot at tomorrows card. You and John both had him highlighted as a good value wager and I thank you both.

    1. JG, Steve Matthews is a good and dangerous man, hope you followed his advice.

      McD, wasn’t a sharp as Vin O, still couldn’t decide, both were holding their odds, so I bet on Cyberknife and White Abarrio, as was suggested, but used Taiba only 3rd in Tris. Jack Christopher regressed off his career top, or didn’t handle the trip, or both.

      Hope all is well with ‘Abarrio’. Rosario already was taking care of the horse at the top of the stretch after the colt lost his action. He may need a long freshening until the Gulfstream championship meet. Hoping that’s all it is.

        1. Vin, Late developing horses always make the second season interesting and thought the Travers was good going in. It got a new major player yesterday. Now let’s seen what happens in the Jim Dandy next weekend.

      1. Matthews has been my ” Trackman “,as we watch Malathaat coming in second in a four horse race. Yrs ago ,Trackman was almost automatically added to my consensus taken from the top handicappers ‘ choices of newspapers like Newsday,NYDN,DRF and my picks.Needless to add that Trackman’ s picks were usually different than the others..,Yes,he is doing well so far winning with a positive ROI.What more can a bettor ask ? 👍

        1. JG, Can’t do better than positive ROI. When I was unofficial Newsday “racing editor,” we were the first NY daily to print our results in the consensus box, e.g. 3-for-9 $19.20 return, so that people to see and figure for themselves…

  6. I eagerly anticipate my trip to Saratoga during the final week of racing. It will be a thrill to lose live and in person 🙂

    SAR 2022: 9 for 24, minus $161, minus 34% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 24JUL2022 (Day 9)

    Race 3 – $20 to WIN on DOCTOR LOVE
    Race 3 – $20 to SHOW on DOCTOR LOVE
    Race 7 – $20 to WIN on IDEA GENERATION

  7. Dan, not sure anyone is streakier than I am. It will turn, I promise. In fact, you will be in front before you leave for Saratoga (fingers crossed)

    1. I keep looking at what I posted on Sunday. Did I really cut into my deficit with a plus $94 on two selections AND a big break after losing by a nose in the non-race ? Hoping things have turned already. Back at ’em on Wednesday.

  8. Streaking? Like in the Freakness Day clothing optional events? I never considered Broadway as a Streaker. Live and learn is all. Please keep an eye on John for all of usToni. And no pictures by Toni needed, lol.

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